Unpublished, and not edited; written March 1978
by Wade Saunders —
Barbara Zucker makes pipes hiss, rattle, and steam visually while she plays with the action of color in metal sculpture and with the many references ruffles make. Her composition is frontal or radial; non-assertive, non-systemic. Her fabrication is expeditious, but not sloppy. Stolid forms are ornamented as pieces of conduit sprout ruffles and stele unfold fans.
Her work asserts that color has been a missing and missed actor in sculpture, a truant Harlequin. To make certain that color, not some idea of painted sculpture, is primary, she uses anodizing and flocking—industrial processes rarely seen in art—to color the pieces. Color is invoked to act independent of form; the sculptures level the traditional hierarchy of form ruling color.
In Harlequin Poles the flocking and anodizing work off of each other. As one moves the large flocked pole keeps changing its color and pattern as do the planes of the anodized, ruffled collars. The piece refers to Maypoles, carousel poles, barber poles, candy canes, all things celebratory. The ruffles are like tutus, folding Halloween decorations, the fluting under mushroom tops, and radish roses. Ruffles are no longer—in some sense—properly serious forms in our culture so it is good that Zucker gives them credence. The sculpture makes us aware of the closedness of the inside of pipes, their mystery.
In Three pieces of conduit spring from the floor to various low levels before making gradual 90-degree arcs so they point horizontally. The end of each is adorned with an incomplete ruffle, each ruffle is flocked a different color. The ruffles suggest sunflowers, but also the spine of an iguana, the flaring of a peacock’s feathers, a cockscomb. In Under the Bridge and Small Connection ruffles emerge from half stele, like beautiful fans opening from out of gravestones.